RITA Reader Challenge Review

RITA Reader Challenge: Heart of Obsidian by Nalini Singh

C+

Title: Heart of Obsidian
Author: Nalini Singh
Publication Info: Berkley June 2013
ISBN: 978-0425263990
Genre: Paranormal

Book Heart of Obsidian This RITA® Reader Challenge 2014 review was written by Renee G. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Paranormal Romance category.

The summary:

A dangerous, volatile rebel, hands stained bloodred.

A woman whose very existence has been erased.

A love story so dark, it may shatter the world itself.

A deadly price that must be paid.

The day of reckoning is here.

And here is Renee G.'s review:

I have enjoyed Ms. Singh’s Psy/Changeling universe/series immensely, avidly craving each book and novella as it comes out and spending precious book time rereading them.  The world-building in this series is tremendous and the continuing storyline of the wider world (for lack of a term) is logical and fascinating, building with each book.

In past volumes of the series, we were introduced to Kaleb and his mysterious past and present.  When Heart of Obsidian opens, one mystery is solved when he finds the woman for whom he’s been looking – Sahara Kyriakus.

I was so excited to get Counselor Kaleb Krycheck’s story . . . and then I read it.  The world story is still logical and fascinating as the story of the Psy continues to push forward, but Kaleb’s story fell flat for me.  I graded each storyline separately, then combined it for one grade.

The world building:  There are three species in Ms. Singh’s world:  Psy (those with psychic abilities who are Silent, like Vulcans), Changelings (organized in packs or family units with the ability to shift into their animal form, and with the gift of a bond with their ideal mate), and humans (no special backstory or abilities).  There are some subsets to these groups, like the Forgotten (Psy who hid when the Silence protocol took effect) and the Changelings who can’t shift, but they aren’t the focus of this book. 

The series begins in 2079 as Silence begins to break among the Psy.  Silence is a protocol begun in 1979 to eradicate or suppress Psy emotions in order to control their psychic abilities.  The painful therapy required by Silence begins at a very young age in order to produce logical, emotionally dead/controlled children and adults – the thought being that it was emotion or the inability to control emotion that drove many pre-1979 Psy into madness and destruction.  There is, however, a gradient of the ability to maintain Silence, from the broken (those who cannot maintain a loss of emotion) up to those who have suppressed their emotions and are the “ideal” Psy – cold, calculating, unfeeling and (for some) unethical. 

The Psy require the PsyNet, a mental construct or community (described as a night sky with the stars as emblems of individual Psy minds) in order to survive; without access to the Net, Psy minds and bodies die.  Unfortunately, by trying to split out the emotions, especially the negative emotions, from their people, the PsyNet is collapsing under the weight of Silence.  As Silence fractures, a new threat from within the Psy arises, a faction called Pure Psy that believe Silence must be maintained at all cost.  They have become a terrorist organization determined to destroy those who oppose Silence, without regard to the innocents of any species in their way.

Heart of Obsidian is our first Psy/Psy love story and features Kaleb Krycheck (a member of the now defunct Psy Council and filthy rich) and Sahara Kyriakus (a woman who never developed Silence and was protected from discovery by her family.  Sahara met Kaleb when both were children, and they shared many important childhood memories, which we learn of through many flashbacks.  Sahara was abducted at sixteen and hidden away as her kidnappers tried to gain access to her special gift.  Our story picks up seven years after the kidnapping, when Kaleb has finally found and rescued Sahara.

A bit more about our bachelor:  Kaleb is a dual cardinal (having the highest ability of not one Psy gift, but two) and, as with most strong Psy, uses his abilities without worrying about the little things like ethics or morals, etc.  We are shown how ruthless he is through his dealings with business rivals and the old Psy Council members.  We also get lots of comments on how he will “destroy” the Net or the world if anything happens to Sahara, and yes, yes he can do it. 

He was the most powerful Psy in the Net, of that he had no doubt, his psychic strength enough to destroy the very fabric of their race— or to control it. As to which he chose to do . . . it depended on her. If she demanded vengeance, he’d turn the world bloodred. 

She reached for his abandoned muffin, cut off a piece, and ate it.  

However, Kaleb never really grows or changes much after being reunited with his childhood sweetheart and moving along to their HEA.  Even his big secret reveals didn’t feel surprising.

And our bachelorette:  Sahara was kidnapped and tortured (or should I say tortured, then imprisoned and tortured) at sixteen, and in order to keep her mind (and special gift) out of her captors’ hands, she constructed a labyrinth to protect her mind. 

She’d created that labyrinth, she knew that. What she didn’t know was why. Why would she sabotage her own mind? Why would she consciously hobble her own abilities? 

Which is cool, right?  Her labyrinth is fascinating, automatically resetting itself which breaks her line of thought and prevents anyone from gaining access to her mind.  Great Concept!!  I looked forward to the labyrinth winding its way thru the story (ha!).  But, no – Sahara solves its riddle by page 38 (faster than Theseus!), snaps out of it and picks up being in love with Kaleb right where she left off when she was kidnapped at sixteen.  As the story progressed,  I didn’t feel the effects of her past impacting her present, and it tossed me out of my feels for her and the story.   

Quick story highlights:  Sahara begins to act as Kaleb’s conscience, preventing him from killing the one responsible for her imprisonment.  Kaleb and Sahara have some smexy times (during which he starts earthquakes and destroys furniture and windows when they get it on, like you do), but she wants to go home and visit the fam (finally, right?? Gone seven years, wouldn’t you want to see your folks and let them know you’re ok?  The delay was kinda cold even for a Silent Psy), and think about things/Kaleb, but then is rushed over to friendly Changeling territory (meeting with some of the prior characters in the series) after another attempt on her life.  She is kidnapped (again) and uses her special gift against her kidnapper.  This helps her realize that she can use her gift and keep it under control.  With that, we start meshing the world storyline with that of our two lovers.

As the storylines merge, Pure Psy, those evil minions, step up their violent actions, bombing the innocent and requiring all three species to act together to stop them – Kaleb leads the Psy contingent, not because it is right, but because he wants to been seen by the Psy as their only option for leadership.  The PsyNet continues to destabilize, losing portions that kill all Psy in that area – Silence is falling.  Kaleb saves the day for the Psy and shows his colorful bond with Sahara to the entire PsyNet to inspire them – wait a sec, a bond??  Like the ones Changelings have with their mates???  But these two are Psy???  This act leads me to the one big, enlightening thump on the head regarding this series that has taken me a very long time to verbalize – it so sucks to be human in this world.  (No bonds for you, puny human!) 

The plot twists for Kaleb and Sahara’s story, like the labyrinth or issues from Sahara’s years of torture and which could have run thru the book, were brought up and quickly resolved, failing to build any tension in the love story for me.  Several Big Reveals weren’t that surprising.  There were lots of flashback interruptions but while I enjoyed them, I also saw them more of a convenient excuse as to how Sahara overcame the impact of seven years of torture in a snap.  In the end, I just couldn’t connect to this Kaleb and Sahara as people.  I ended up being very Psy about this book, except for the story of what was happening out in the world away from our two lovers.  That world story, on the other hand, did build very nicely and made me gasp (and cry, but in a good way) and ended up balancing the final score.

I know my opinion for Heart of Obsidian is in a very small minority.  I have loved, more or less, the previous books, especially the ones with Psy Guys (Spock, the original Psy Guy, was my first crush).  Rereads of the book have made my review less negative, but without a meaningful connection to the hero and/or the heroine, I am glad to move on to the next volume in this series (Go Vasic!).


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Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    cleo says:

    Great review. I think I enjoyed this one a little more than you did, but I agree with your analysis. I had trouble buying Sahara – both her ridiculously fast recovery and the idea that she set up the labyrinth when she was 16. But I’m still addicted to the series.

  2. 2
    library addict says:

    Oh, such a bummer the story didn’t work for you. I’ve had books like that.

    I loved Kaleb & Sahara’s story. I loved that the book focused so much on them and tied so many small clues from the previous books together. It’s one of my favorite books in the series.

    As for Sahara’s fast recovery I thought it worked better for me in subsequent rereads then it did the first time I read the book.

  3. 3
    DonnaMarie says:

    Renee, spot on review.  I felt this one fell a little short for the same reasons you did.

  4. 4
    Amanda K Byrne says:

    I’m with library addict on this one – I loved this story, and it’s hands down my favorite in the series so far (which is why I didn’t want to review it, I didn’t think I could be anything other than effusive, and I always hate those kind of reviews.) It had its flaws, certainly, but I must be blind to them, because it’s KALEB.

  5. 5
    ReneeG says:

    Thank you, ladies!  It was nerve-wracking writing the review since I was sure I was the only one with issues with Kaleb and Sahara’s story. 

    I wanted so much to love this book – I also had been waiting for Kaleb’s story and hoped it would be as good as Hawke’s.  I will say that rereading it for the review did help temper my earlier disappointment, but it won’t be an automatic re-read like some of the other books. 

    But I love Nalini Singh’s books (both series) and hope they will always be on my auto-buy list!

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